Everyone's been on their soapbox about the Annandale. One of the inner west's favourite music venues fought for its right to party and found neighbours shaking both fists (and the Rule brothers' wallets). Now under new ownership with Oscars Hotels (Camperdown Hotel, Hotel Sweeneys and the ever-adominable Bar Century), the Annandale has started its next chapter amidst high scrutiny — but it's started on the right foot. With solid, British-style pub grub, a breakfast menu, brand new live music set-up and a tasteful, unpretentious fit-out; the Annandale is well and truly back.
Walking into the newly renovated Parramatta Road venue gives the same vibe as the Abercrombie's 2011 Scottish makeover. You can't help feeling like you're revisiting a shitty sharehouse you used to get drunk in; now somebody with more money than you has revamped the whole place and made it Nice. There's where The Horrors' Faris Badwan almost broke every glass and the air conditioner. There's where The Vines' Craig Nicholls kicked a photographer in the face like a jerk. Memories errrrwhurrrr.
For those of us who have odd nostalgia about sticking to the carpet at the ol' joint, they've ripped up the beer-laden, soggy mess and laid down vintage tiles amidst their timber-heavy, exposed brickwork aesthetic. Those fearful for an Annandale live music diss, the pub has a brand new stage and high-fiveable sound system and have crafted a Thursday to Sunday program to start a more twang-fuelled chapter for the formerly hardcore-loving pub.
If you're planning to eat at the Annandale, come hungry. Portions are super generous and the pub grub style spares no expense on the grease. Based around British tavern staples (Yorkshire puddings, roast chickens, triple-layer apple pies), the Annandale kitchen has crafted a highly carby pub menu that's perfect for soaking up all those local craft beers you'll be slinging.
Casual nibblers have plenty to pick from; chilli prawn buns ($3), vegan curry mushroom empanadas ($2.50) and the applaudable 'Yorkies' ($4) — mini Yorkshire puddings, whose roasted duck-filled goodness is worth more than the meagre price. Seriously, a pork hock and apple kimchi Yorkie and a side salad will cost you less than ten bucks, better than spending the same amount across the road at Maccas.
Mains are big and greasy, so make sure you've got room. The cider-battered dory ($16) is a full-on batter party, but delectable all the same; served with an apple slaw to rival the Norfolk's slaw dominance and roasted potatoes that can't possibly be vegetarian-friendly — that crispiness hints at duck fat, warning to pescetarians. The roast section ($19-23) is also pretty damn generous in their chopping board-served helpings; the bartenders recommend you share a roast between two for a pretty cheap eat.
Burger-wise, the Annandale have set a pretty price point ($13-16) and have crafted a small but solid range, from beer-battered fish to double beef with back fat bacon. The highly-anticipated southern fried chicken burger is pretty hefty, served on a brioche-type bun with carrot relish, chipotle mayo and a serious chip serving so you won't need a side — although the side fries come with a kickass chilli cheese dip.
Booze-wise, craft beer is the main focus at the Annandale, with eight different Australian tap options every night of the week. The bartenders know what's up with their crafties from Young Henry's to Rocks Brewing Co.; they'll pair you up with a solid Whale Ale with seafood, Cavalier Brown with roasts. The wine list is lengthy but well-considered, with nothing over $10 a glass (but a decent drop in every one).
If you've got enough room in those poorly-chosen, high-waisted jeans of yours, try one of four reasonably-priced dessert adventures (all $10). We watched mournfully as baked s'mores, triple-layer apple pies and sticky date sundaes wander past our aching bellies. For those wanting nosh a little earlier in the day, the Annandale is now open for brekkie too on Saturdays and Sundays — with nothing over $15 and perfect hair-of-the-dog cuisine.
The Annandale has grown up, and while no one can take those sticky, loud, shitty beer-fuelled years away from us, it's time to move on and reclaim one of Sydney's most beloved pubs.